A certain female dance coach I know once warned me: ‘don’t just take lessons from female teachers, or you’ll end up dancing like a woman.’ It was the first time I realized that learning from a single person, or even a single kind of person, could ultimately do more harm than good.
That can be hard to swallow, especially if your instructor is one you’ve been with a long time. They understand your learning processes, they know how to pick you up when you are hard on yourself. In return, you feel obligated to stay ‘faithful’ to them.
The thing is, most instructors know that their students will want to branch out sooner or later. True, if you are new to dancing, a single teacher keeps things easy and uncomplicated. As you start gaining experience however, you may find yourself looking at what other instructors bring to the table.
1. Different perspectives
Each instructor has a different way of seeing dance, and they will explain it in their own unique way. Especially if you are having trouble with a specific technique, different instructors provide different ways to understand how it’s done.
It can also save you time AND money – I have personally spent hours and hundreds of dollars struggling with one technique as it was explained by an instructor, only to have it clarified in a single lesson with another. The second instructor wasn’t better or worse than the first: they simply taught that step in a way that worked for me.
2. Different pace
Some days, you want to just dance dance dance like crazy! Other times you may want to spend hours drilling that one move that eludes you until you finally nailed it. Likewise, some instructors naturally gravitate towards a just-dance-and-let-go approach, while others want to dig down into every detail.
Mixing it up is simply a good way you don’t get too much of one or the other. Or have you never wished your instructor would take more time on something, or alternatively, would just stop talking and dance it with you?
3. Different teaching styles
Just as we have specific ways we like to have things explained, we also have more general learning styles: kinaesthetic, or touch; auditory, and visual. We usually prefer one or two of these styles when having things explained to us, so we just need an instructor who matches that, right?
Not so fast – those learning styles can combine in interesting ways. For example, sometimes I want to be physically moved through a step (kinaesthetic). Other times, I may prefer watching and imitating (visual), or maybe even connecting at arms length so I can both see and be moved.
The more differently your team of instructors can explain a dance concept to you, the faster you can get it in your BODY, not just in your mind.
4. Different focus
At the studio where I work, we sometimes have student progress checks. That’s when the student dances with one instructor (their ‘primary’) while another one looks on. That way, the observing instructor can suggest ways to improve that the first instructor might not have gotten to yet.
Whether I like it or not, I know the bad habits I spot most readily in my students are ones I’ve encountered and corrected, either with past students or within myself. Every instructor has different experiences in this regard, so they are hot-wired to spot different problem areas before they develop into habits.
5. A well-rounded experience
Overall, having tutelage from multiple teachers is a great way to become more well-rounded as a dancer. With each instructor giving you the techniques, steps, and perspectives they know best, you won’t be good at one facet of ballroom dancing – you’ll be good at all of them.
Anyone who’s ballroom danced knows that there is a lot of learning involved. It’s only natural that – through no fault of their own – instructors will tend to remember and focus on some aspects more than others.
If you want the most for your dancing however, consider telling your main teacher you’d like to take lessons with others in the studio from time to time. If they really want you to succeed as a dancer, they will understand.